As the Internet of Things became a mainstream reality, it raised an interesting point about connectivity. We quickly learned it wasn’t ideal to have every light bulb, toaster, and kettle buzzing away on our main WiFi networks. Nor was it practical to sign up for a cellular data plan for every tracker tag or remote sensor we wanted to use.
To solve this issue, various tech companies have developed their own low-power mesh networking solutions. Amazon’s Sidewalk network is one of the widest spread in the US. Now, it’s opening it up for wider use beyond its own products, and you can get in on the action.
Continue reading “Your Guide To Using Amazon’s Sidewalk Network For The Internet Of Things” →
[Irak Mayer] has been exploring IoT applications for use with remote monitoring of irrigation control systems. As you would expect, the biggest challenges for moving data from the middle of a field to the home or office are with connectivity and power. Obviously, the further away from urbanization you get, the sparser both these aspects become, and the greater the challenge.
[Irak] solves his connectivity problem by assuming there is some WiFi network within range, building a system around the Blues Wireless WiFi note card. Substituting their cellular card would be an option for applications out of WiFi range, but presumably without changing too much on the system and software side of things. Leveraging the Adafruit FeatherWing INA219, which is a bidirectional current sensor with an I2C interface, for both the power generation and system consumption measurements. For control, [Irak] is using an Adafruit ESP32 board, but says little more about the hardware. On the software side, [Irak] is using the Blues Wireless NoteHub for the initial connection, which then routes the collected data onto the Adafruit IoT platform for collation purposes. The final part of the hardware is a LiPo battery which is on standby to soak up any excess power available from the energy harvesting. This is monitored by an LC709203f battery fuel gauge.
Continue reading “Supercon 2022: Irak Mayer Builds Self-Sustainable Outdoor IoT Devices” →
If you’ve ever worked in IT support, you’ll be familiar with users calling in to check if the Internet is up every few hours or so. Often a quick refresh of the browser is enough to see if a machine is actually online. Alternatively, a simple ping or browsing to a known-working website will tell you what you need to know. The one I use is
When it comes to engineers coding firmware for smart devices, you would assume they have more straightforward and rigorous ways of determining connectivity. In the case of certain smart ovens, it turns out they’re making the same dumb checks as everyone else.
At its core, the Internet is really just a bunch of computers networked together. There’s no reason that there can’t be other separate networks of computers, or that we all have to tie every computer we have to The One Internet To Rule Them All. In fact, for a lot of embedded systems, it doesn’t make much sense to give them a full network stack and Cat6e Ethernet just to report a few details about themselves. Enter LoRaWAN, a wireless LAN that uses extremely low power for Internet-of-Things devices, and an implementation of one of these networks in an urban environment.
The core of the build is the LoRaWAN gateway which sits at the top of a tall building to maximize the wireless range of all of the other devices. It’s running ChirpStack on the software side and uses a Kerlink Wigrid station to broadcast. The reported range is a little over 9 km with this setup. Other gateways can also be added, and the individual LoRa modules can report to any available gateway. From there, the gateways all communicate back to the central server and the information can be sent out to the wider network, Internet or otherwise.
The project’s creator [mihai.cuciuc] notes that this sort of solution might not be best for everyone. There are other wide area networks available, but using LoRaWAN like this would be likely to scale better as more and more devices are added to the network. For some other ways that LoRa can be used to great effect, take a look at this project which builds an off-grid communications network with it.
UV rays are great at helping us generate vitamin D, but they can also be harmful, causing sunburn and even melanoma. To help kids keep track of the UV index in his local area, [Jude Pullen] created the UV Budgie.
The build is based around an Arduino Nano 33 IoT board, which queries the Met Office’s API to determine the UV level in the area. The relevant data is then displayed on a small e-ink display, with cute little sun characters telling you about the prevailing conditions. It also announces the current risk level with recorded voice samples, advising on whether precautions should be taken, such as using sunscreen or sheltering inside for the worst days. Plus, there’s a bird that flaps its wings to announce an update, actuated by a small servo in the base.
It’s a fun build that should help [Jude] and his family remain sun safe in the summer. [Jude] notes the build could also be reprogrammed to share other warnings, too. APIs to query local air quality or radiation levels are just some of the ideas that come to mind. Video after the break.
Continue reading “UV Monitoring Budgie Keeps An Eye On Exposure Levels” →
It would appear that, sometimes, miracles happen. A few days ago, an update graced the website of Insteon, a company whose abrupt shuttering we covered in detail two months ago. An entity described as “small group of passionate Insteon users” has bought what was left of the company, and is working on getting the infrastructure back up. Previously, there was no sign of life from the company’s APIs. Now, Insteon hubs are coming back to life — or perhaps, they’re Inste-online again.
We’ve explained that revival of these devices without acquiring the company IP would’ve been tricky because of stuff like certificate pinning, and of course, a pile of proprietary code. Buying a company that’s undergoing a liquidation is not exactly end-user-friendly, but it would seem that someone sufficiently business-savvy got it done. The new CEO, as reported by [CNX Software], is a member of an investment committee — it’s fair to assert that this would help. A more sustainable funding source rather than ‘sell hardware and then somehow provide indefinite services’ is promised; they are moving to a subscription model, but only for Insteon Hub users. Recurring payments don’t sound as bad when it comes to paying developers and covering operational costs, and we hope that this revival succeeds.
Nothing is mentioned about moving towards openness in software and hardware — something that protects users from such failures in the first place. The new company is ultimately vulnerable to the same failure mode, and may leave the users in the dark just as abruptly as a result. However, we have our fingers crossed that the updated business model holds, purely for users’ sake. At least, unlike with the Wink hub, Insteon’s transition to a subscription model is better than the Inste-off alternative.
We thank [Itay] for sharing this with us! Via [CNX Software].
Blinds are great for blocking out the sun, but having to get up to open and close them grows tiresome in this computationally-advanced age. [The Hook Up] decided to automate his home blinds instead, hooking them up to the Internet of Things with some common off-the-shelf parts.
The basic idea was to use stepper motors to turn the tilt rod which opens and closes the blinds. An early attempt to open blinds with unipolar stepper motors proved unsuccessful, when the weak motors weren’t capable of fully closing the blinds when running on 5 volts. Not wanting to throw out the hardware on hand, the motors were instead converted to bipolar operation. They were then hooked up to DRV8825 driver boards and run at 12 volts to provide more torque.
With the electromechanical side of things sorted out, it was simple to hook up the motor drivers to a NodeMCU, based on the ESP8266. The IoT-ready device makes it easy to control the motors remotely via the web.
The build came in at a low cost of around $10 per blind. That’s a good saving over commercial options which can cost hundreds of dollars in comparison. We’ve seen other work from [The Hook Up] before too, like his creative Flex Seal screen build. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Automated Blinds Can Be A Cheap And Easy Build” →